I am currently watching the snow steadily stream down outside the window of my home on Vancouver Island. Although snow is not a common sight in this particular area, nothing surprises me here, which makes me love this small town (population 12,300) even more.
Shortly after we moved here we noticed that so many other people, usually retirees, were new arrivals as well. (Seriously, is anyone left in Calgary?) The common question asked at these meet-and-greets was “why did you choose HERE?” This question was often especially directed at us since we had moved from Beijing and had never lived on the Island previously. Invariably the most common answers included:
- Mild temperatures and Mediterranean-like dryness which have given this region the nickname of “Canada’s Riviera” (today is definitely not a good example)
- Reasonable cost of living
- Minimal traffic and less hectic pace
- Endless outdoor sports and activities, including numerous golf courses nearby
- Uncrowded and unspoiled sandy beaches
- Miles of pristine hiking trails–shared with black bears, cougars and other wildlife
- The ability to live close to family, usually in Vancouver, while still giving everyone their space
- Can golf in town and then ski at nearby Mt. Washington on the same day (although today you would have to be a true die-hard golfer, and a bit of a kook, to even dream about it).
Our personal answer to the “why here” question definitely includes all of the above. We had done quite a bit of exploring and research. From our initial visit, Parksville-Qualicum instantly felt like home.
As it is the emotional side of retirement that most interests me, I am keenly aware of what a huge role location plays in quality of life. In our global world people no longer need to live where they always did, and this is especially true in post-work life.
My husband, who was born in a very, very small town, likes to joke about living in a small town once again. The pace can be very slow, the person in front of you at the grocery store checkout always seems to have a (long) story to share, it is difficult to find a restaurant open after 7:30 p.m., nightlife is virtually non-existent, finding a doctor who will accept new patients is like winning the lottery and if the ferry doesn’t run… well, you simply do not go. Also, as the average age in Parksville and neighbouring Qualicum Beach is 58.2 and 63.9 respectively, my husband also often refers to local gatherings and events as “the sea of grey” — um honey, have you looked at our own birth certificates or driver’s licenses recently?
Comparing the list of island advantages to the list of complaints about small town living, the decision to live here was a good one for us. Stay tuned for the post on bad decisions; we’ve definitely made a few!
My best retirement advice? Take your time, look around, think outside of the box, and then carefully choose where you would like to live –not where you, or others, think you should. Consider all of the quality of life factors no matter how mundane they may seem at the time. It is the smartest investment that I can suggest.